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Jackson Beats Former Employees
by Marcus Errico
Mar 18, 1997, 5:30 PM PT

Score one for the King of Pop.

Today a jury in Santa Maria, California, sided with Michael Jackson and found that five former employees at his Neverland Ranch were not wrongfully terminated. In what was a complete win for the singer, the jury even awarded Jackson $60,000 in a countersuit that charged some of those employees stole items from the estate.

According to their lawsuit, an administrative assistant, a maid and three bodyguards who formerly worked for the pop star claimed Jackson and six other employees harassed, threatened and fired them.

The plaintiffs say they were forced out of Neverland because they testified against Jackson before a grand jury investigating whether the singer molested a 13-year-old boy. The suit alleged Jackson was so paranoid that he bugged his home to find out what employees were saying about the charges.

The singer's attorneys filed a countersuit, saying the five quit voluntarily and were not harassed. It also claimed two of the former workers--the maid and a bodyguard--stole sketches, personal notes, hats, toys and candy from the ranch, selling some items to tabloid newspapers.

The jury of 10 women and two men agreed with Jackson. They ruled Tuesday there was no evidence to support the allegations brought against Jackson or the six aides mentioned in the lawsuit by his former employees. Jurors also decided that items were stolen and awarded Jackson the 60 grand. "We're happy to be finally and fully vindicated," said Jackson attorney Steve Cochrane.

The trial commenced in September and was handed to the jury last Thursday.

Jackson was never charged with child molestation. In 1994, Jackson settled the original civil suit filed by the boy. While the terms were confidential, the amount has been estimated between $15 and $50 million.

In other Jacko news Tuesday, the singer and wife Debbie Rowe vehemently denied that photos published in a British newspaper were of Michael Jr. "This is an injustice to my family and I regret if anyone was misled," Jackson said in a statement. The photos appeared in News of the World--the London tab that first reported Rowe was pregnant with Jackson's child.

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